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We usually begin our aikido practice working on set kihonwaza and kata. As in the "shu ha ri" evolution, though, people then start "breaking" out of kata and, some day, come back into a form of sorts.
When does, on average, the "ha" stage occur naturally and apprpriately in one's training career? Is this something that happens around shodan? Sandan? Godan?
How does "personality" come into play in this?
06-30-2004, 02:24 PM
I think the potential for "ha" (break the form) can emerge as early as nikkyu or ikkyu, as soon as kihon waza are solid enough for the perception of suki to occur. As the student begins to perceive openings in nage's and uke's movement, the idea of adapting kihon waza to the immediate situation can occur.
This would not be an appropriate time to concentrate on this aspect of training, however. Levels of skill for rank vary so much among various organizations that it is difficult to name a rank at which "ha" would become a larger part of training. My intuitive response, based on my own training, is Sandan. By this time kihon waza should be well integrated. In addition, teaching is a great stimulus to explore larger and deeper aspects of Aikido.
It seems to me that personality would play a large part in this evolution, as it requires a creative leap and a high tolerance for uncertainty. My experience is of technique falling apart for months at a time as I work to integrate new insights.
Thought provoking question ....
$.02 from Sharon
07-01-2004, 09:57 AM
From a personal point of view gained by teaching students themselves, I believe that the concept of Shu, Ha and Ri are almost concurrent in their learning. We are all shown techniques by a teacher and more often than not this individual is different from us not only in size and shape, but also in attitude, personality and life experience.
We attempt to mimic what we see, to copy the form that is laid out before us but we may be too short to stretch that far, to long in the legs to get under the Shihonage and too ill balanced to stay standing during tenkan.
Surely then during our initial learning of the form, we are already breaking it to suit ourselves and in effect creating our own mastery of our own form every time we train.
I have mentioned to my students the concept of Shuhari, but try not to break it into its component parts, instead keeping it as a whole of "Seek to understand the form to free yourself of it, only then can you truly appreciate and learn what part of the technique is truly yourself and no-one else. In doing so you find that you have not actually broken the form at all, but have come closer to understanding it".
I cannot mimic my own Sensei and instead seek to translate what I see (form) to suit myself (freedom from form) and work within my own physical limitations which in turn frees up my ability to seek understanding of what I have been trying to accomplish.
Does freedom from form ever take place if we cannot break our minds from our physical limitation and striving to be technically proficient. I remember a beautiful analogy of Shuhari as written by Kensho Furuya, demonstrated by the tale of a chick struggling to free itself from the egg. It does not know what to do until the mother taps the shell with its beak and in that instant a billion years of evolution and instinct leads its actions in order to free itself.
We have all freed ourselves and performed Shuhari during training, its that moment when it all just clicks into place and for that one brief moment in time Aiki occurs, the harmonious interaction breaks free from our physical shell and our teachnique flies out of the nest.
Like any good parent, it is only natural to pine for it's return, so we begin the process of creating our techniques again, nuturing our technique until, instinctively, when it is ready to leave, we let it go once again.
07-01-2004, 10:27 AM
Good question Jun.
I'll telll you something I found fascinating. About 10 years ago, I recall looking at a few specific aikido instruction tapes. I tried to mimick the movements to get the basics and thought I understood. After a while I put the tapes down and just concentrated on what my teachers were showing. Then about 4 years ago I looked at the tapes again and saw something totally different. I used the tapes to refine my technique. To tighten up ikkyo, nikkyo, etc
I recently started watching those same tapes again after not looking at them for close to 4 years and now I am seeing where I can intergrate my own movements and use those on the tape to build upon what I am currently doing.
So for me these things happen in cycles. Although I "thought" I knew something or could break away from convention, I now see that the more I break away the more I also refer back to the basics.
07-01-2004, 12:26 PM
There are VERY few dojos in the world where concept Shu Ha Ri is realized in reality of training. Only instructors that were direct students of Japanese shihans for long years have a clue about it. Most of them do it unconsciously.
This concept is particularly absent in Europe. Instructors in Europe are so busy to preserve their “European identity” that they are completely lost on The Way.
I think we must be very careful as to “break form”, it is not about adjustments for different attacks, or because of personal physical or mental preferences. But must of young first kyu or first dan “masters”, misunderstand this stage of development.
Forms are simply a heap of certain movements to teach the principles, and at such low level as 1 dan, one have not enough deep understanding aikido to create better tools to teach principles.
I believe one need 20 or 25 years of hard and systematic practice to be able to “break form”.
07-01-2004, 04:55 PM
I agree with you, Szczepan. It probably begins to happen during godan experience. "Break the form" doesn't simply mean to change the form of the technique. First we must copy the form, then keep the form while practicing and going beyond "imitation" waza to really "doing" waza with creative, intuitive decisions and authority. There is a process of maturation into the form before we break the form. The Ri stage doesn't happen for everyone, I suspect. If and when it does, it's somewhere during or above nanadan.
07-01-2004, 11:44 PM
I think that it is important to note that Okumura Shihan has said that while the concept has been useful for him to explain things to his students, he also has said that the Founder did not use the concept and has indicated O`Sensei did not find it appropriate for Aikido. So my question then is, is shu ha ri a natural progression or just one way of doing things?
07-02-2004, 09:24 AM
I tend to agree with you Charles. I don't think it is a matter of a specific rank level or years but rather an output of consistent training. It may happen sooner or later depending on the person. I don't believe it is something to aspire to or look for.
07-02-2004, 11:08 AM
I would also agree with Charles and Asim. It is a human concept that has grown out of a need to attach a label or definition to a natural progression that CAN occur through the various stages of training over the years. Trying to monitor it (especially in ourselves...) is nonsense. A person with the experience of making the journey themselves can notice aspects of the process in others certainly. To me, it is only important within the student/teacher relationship.
07-02-2004, 02:34 PM
I think that it is important to note that Okumura Shihan has said that while the concept has been useful for him to explain things to his students, he also has said that the Founder did not use the concept and has indicated O`Sensei did not find it appropriate for Aikido.
Is Shu Ha Ri really appropriate for Aikido? Aikido is said to be a formless art, so how can one master the forms? Kihon waza are ones which demonstrate fundamental principles, but the waza themselves are not fundamental in the technicalities of how they are done. If we say ikkyo is a base form, then whose ikkyo do we stick to?
Well, then perhaps it is the concept of Shu Ha Ri that is misunderstood. I believe it is less about forms (sticking to them, and breaking the form, etc.) and more about a way of thinking.
In the Shu stage, this is where one does not question the Sensei, but just does as is told. He just practices the way without putting his own 2 cents in (protect). It is not the point of sticking to the forms, but just practicing without question. This is considered to take a long time. Mastery of forms is not the goal, but instead an internalization, appreciation, and deep understanding of the way.
In the Ha stage, now one begins to ask questions like "Why is this done like this, how will this really work, or what happens if I do this?" When does this Ha stage happen? The traditional way of learning is broken. Sometime after one's own way has become that of the sensei's way does this happen. At this point, the student is really putting all the knowledge he or she has learned into practice in different ways.
Finally the RI stage. By now, the student has listened, learned, and now starts learning through self discovery.
This is the time where the student is ready to create, (takemusu) discover, and learn without the aid of his sensei.
In short, the length of time needed for each stage to occur depends on the individuals ability to listen, apply, and then create.
07-02-2004, 02:40 PM
I agree with you, Szczepan. It probably begins to happen during godan experience.
That seems a little high to me; perhaps we're using the language differently. "Breaking form" occurs with the narcosis of repetition, familiarity, and confidence. I think this can occur with intense practice, at a seminar, e.g.
Peter Goldsbury remarked to SHU-HA-RI on another thread a while back: Whether or not you can "break form" may be contingent as much on community as skill. I've seen instructors chide their students for not doing what they're told when they adapt techniques, e.g.
07-02-2004, 03:30 PM
There is a tendency when thinking of the concept of shu-ha-ri in martial arts to assume that it must be a linear progression that takes places over a set period of time. Chiba-sensei has written (http://www.aikidoonline.com/Archives/2001/mar/feat_0301_tkc.html) about shu-ha-ri in these terms, stating that shu takes place up to sandan, ha takes places from sandan until godan, and then ri takes places subsequent to godan.
While that is one interpretation of this metaphor, it is not the only possible one. Metaphorical concepts in martial arts only serve to illuminate some aspect of physical training and, while they may be useful in this regard, it is unwise to get too caught up in an attempt to establish an absolute intellectual meaning to such concepts. This is impossible as they have no independent meaning of their own. So while Chiba-sensei$B!G(Bs discussion on shu-ha-ri may be relevant within the context of his specific teachings, it should not be seen dogmatically as the only basis for a more general understanding of the concept within aikido or other martial arts.
Another way to view the metaphor of shu-ha-ri is as a reflection of the natural process of learning and relearning principles and ways of executing techniques that occurs in the study of any martial art. As such, it can be seen as a constant process that has no fixed beginning or end. Students on their first day go through the process as they start with what they think the technique is, then continually break down that understanding and rebuild it until it resembles something that actually works (within the context of efffectiveness that has been defined: sometimes, particularly in aikido, what "works" for a student in the dojo setting is simply making the teacher happy even when doing so requires using movements that would be useless in a real conflict).
Seeing shu-ha-ri only in the context of whether one copies a specific kata or changes it is, to me, a reflection of the overemphasis on form in aikido that has been discussed here earlier. When we are able to break out of seeing the art only through the lens of form, which may be a completely different process from shu-ha-ri or which may be a manifestation of that process for the art as a whole rather than for each individual in the art, then we see that the forms themselves are not the art. Rather, it is the principles they manifest, and the ability to apply them, that constitute aikido (and all other arts).
Such principles are not only expressed through forms but through all movement, and hence the validity or correctness of those principles can be addressed whether they are expressed through form or non-form. In such a view, shu-ha-ri can be seen as not relevant to form at all but as a reflection of the development and evolution of the principles and patterns of movement that constitute what we would call a $B!H(Bstyle.$B!I(B
07-02-2004, 05:33 PM
I imagine that one must allow for stylistic preferences when it comes to the manner in which various schools and/or teachers lead others to Ri. This is the same thing in Ch’an and Zen history – each temple and/or master had his particular way of “bringing” or “guiding” students toward Awakening. That said, I hope we can realize that there are many ways of transcribing what Mr. Clark has nicely called “a human concept that has grown out of a need to attach a label or definition to a natural progression that CAN occur through the various stages of training over the years.” In the end, like great Ch’an masters of old, the proof is in the number of students that have had this level of transmission take place. Everything else, we have to agree, will have to allow for a number of ways of saying the same thing, as well as a number of ways that may be completely different from each other – even contradictory – while nevertheless equally remaining valid. In addition, there will be things said that cannot be considered valid any under model. One will have to decide for oneself – as always.
Our way, what we do in our dojo, is simply one of many, I imagine. (Though I would completely agree that there are relatively very few dojo that truly work with Shu, Ha, and Ri as a central aspect of training.) We have made choices in what it is we have done and what it is we will not do and of course then also in terms of what we are currently doing. Some of the things mentioned thus far we have turned away against. Others, we practice diligently. We have our reasons for both. For example, I have found no benefit to practicing or to thinking of Shu, Ha, and/or Ri in linear terms. Nor do I find benefit to practicing and/or thinking upon such things in relation to institutional hierarchies – which are in themselves antithetical to what Ri is all about anyway. In most cases, rank is more coincidental than it is relative.
Some of the things that might be of relevance to that which has already be mentioned is that I do not equate Shu, for example, with Ikkyo (Kihon Waza). Thus, I do not equate Ha, for example, with variations of Ikkyo (Kihon Waza). Shu, Ha, Ri has its origins in Buddhist thought. One can with ease trace it back to the formation of the Mahayana stance, and thus to the Indian thinker Nagarjuna. It’s most readily accessible testament is at the core of Zen training and thus of Budo history. This testament is the Heart Sutra. In this text the apparent dichotomy of form and non-form are addressed. In reading this text, we should not necessarily understand form and non-form to be a be a matter of objective reality. I think some folks are taking this position here – either knowingly or unknowingly. In the text, form and non-form are more our experience of reality than anything else – so to speak. In like sense, Shu and Ha are better understood as our experience of Ikkyo and non-Ikkyo.
In other words, I have not left the realm of form, or the realm of Shu, simply because I have adopted to train in yet one more version of Ikkyo. Both the Kihon Waza version and the new variation are for the most part still of Shu and still of form. In fact, I can have 10,000 versions of Ikkyo and still I will not necessarily leave the realm of Shu and enter into Ha. It is false to believe otherwise – at least according to the Heart Sutra.
For me, Shu (particularly from the viewpoint of Ha) is not so much Ikkyo as much as it is our natural inclination to attach to form – to attach to Ikkyo. Ha then is not a breaking of form – a departure from Ikkyo - that is thought to take place by simply introducing more forms. Ha is a “breaking” with our attachment to form. Yes, both of these things we may do through an introduction of form, however, the process of introducing form must be done in such a way that form is not reified. This latter thing does not happen simply by having variations on a theme. Rather, the introduction of form must be done in such a way that our natural inclination to be attached to a form is not supported by our training. This is why I feel that Shu and Ha must be practiced concurrently. After all, Ha is not the introduction of poor form, nor is it the absence of addressing good form. A student’s progress in technique is not subverted or hindered by addressing their attachment to form. On the contrary, tradition holds that true understanding, which includes understanding technical matters, does not occur until a reconciliation of form and non-form has passed. In this sense, the forms we use as Ha are forms that amplify, address, enlarge, shed light upon, etc., our attachment to form (form in general – not just Ikkyo).
This is why a teacher’s role is so important when it comes to Shu, Ha, Ri training. A teacher, through upaya (trans. Skillful Means), determines both the level of attachment and the tool (in this case an introduction of another form) necessary to bring that level of attachment to the attention of the student. This process goes on and on until a level of reconciliation between form and non-form are reached in the student (by the student).
07-02-2004, 07:42 PM
David, nicely written. There's also something that Draeger Sensei talked about and Pascal Krieger (one of his students and now menkyo kaiden of Shinto Muso Ryu as well as highly graded shodoka) wrote about in his book, "Jodo - the way of the stick" that goes hand-in-hand with shu, ha, ri.
The study and practice of kata as a tool and discipline for transmission of the Way. This can only truly be understood subjectively from within the process. First stage is "Gyo" or practice, practice... giving yourself to the training and the teacher with faith (shu); Second stage is "Shugyo" or austere training. Often thought of as a form of "forging" the student within the heat of the practice; Third stage is "Jutsu" or finally giving in to the practice with determination to master the principles and technique and finding some success (ha); and the final stage is "Do" or realizing the transmission that has occurred... technique mastered and now forgotten... just the doing... (ri).
I've just pulled this out of my head, not quoting Krieger Sensei, so this is just my few words trying to express the process. I think I remember this also contained in one of Draeger's works, but can't remember which one. I haven't read any of them in quite some time.
In my opinion, there are very few individuals that can make this journey on their own without a guide, teacher, etc. that has already made the journey.
Thanks again for your long post. It's a keeper.
07-02-2004, 08:15 PM
You are too kind Chuck. Thank you for your reply.
I agree, I think what you are paraphrasing has to be assumed in any kind of training that takes seriously the reconciliation of form and non-form. I think we have to allow for that even if we may or may not want to understand such levels of training as stages. In other words, it almost has to be a bare minimum requirement.
I also agree with the suggested rarity, but I especially like your implied position - that when we are talking about a teacher we are talking about a teacher who has himself or herself realized Ri. Not just any teacher will do, in other words. (Or) At least we can say, not just any teacher will make the difference between attaining Ri by oneself, on the one hand, or with the guidance of another, on the other hand.
(topic change) On the rarity: Unlike other posters in this thread, my experience does not lend itself to the position that we are talking only about those folks that have trained for a very long time under Japanese shihan. In fact, my experience lends itself to the position that most Japanese shihan are either not interested in this process, have not or cannot train in this process themselves, and/or are unwilling to involve students in this process on any kind of regular basis. My experience also lends itself to the position that it is second, third, and fourth generation instructors (from Osensei, and from non-Japanese cultures) that are more inclined to take this ideal seriously – seriously enough to actually orient training around it. Also, in that experience, which is of course just the experience of one man, non-Japanese folks more inclined to invest themselves in Japanese shihan that do not involve themselves at any kind of “deep” level in Shu-Ha-Ri training orientations are also equally less likely to involve themselves in such training. There is perhaps a sociological reason under such a perspective: The transcendence of form can hardly be measured, packaged, institutionalized, etc. It is hardly good for business – so to speak.
That said, most of us are going to have to rely on the various “pratyeka buddhas” that are out there – or become one. That is to say, most of us, if not nearly all of us, are going to have to rely upon the long and twisty path of trial and error (tinged with great discipline and drive) and/or upon those other folks that already had to follow such paths. I say this because I do not hold that the “micro-adjustments” that we often see in high-ranking individuals during demonstrations and/or instruction are necessarily the same thing as Ri. Rather, it is, for the most part, just being really really good at forms.
07-03-2004, 11:23 AM
I say this because I do not hold that the "micro-adjustments" that we often see in high-ranking individuals during demonstrations and/or instruction are necessarily the same thing as Ri. Rather, it is, for the most part, just being really really good at forms.
To the extent that you use the metaphor of shu-ha-ri to apply strictly to form, then I would agree with this. But as I tried to suggest in my last post, this is not the only way to interpret that concept. As I have said in earlier posts, and attempted to reiterate in this thread, aikido is not an art of forms. It is an art of principles, the selection and application of which reflect a personal style.
Quite frankly, I frequently practice with a number of individuals, including several Japanese shihan, whose form I often find somewhat questionable, to speak euphemistically. I continue to practice with these individuals not to learn form or technique but because I believe that they have something to teach me that is beyond form. It is also my belief that these individuals do understand and are teaching according to the model of shu-ha-ri, though they are not using the vehicle of technical form to do so.
Now, you may put forth a critcism of that reality on the grounds that without developing the techniques and their application in this manner they are not teaching an effective martial art. While I would personally be persuaded by that criticism, it is nevertheless a separate point from whether they are, in fact, employing the framework of shu-ha-ri in one manner or another in their teachings.
We must accept the reality that the practice of aikido has significantly diverged from its roots as an effective martial art. Under the guidance of the previous generation, it has become primarily a social activity that may or may not have any relevance to real physical conflicts. This was an intentional change designed to address the realities of the environment in which it developed. Hence, the art as it is now taught primarily focuses on maintaining and building the organizational structure of the social club-dojo rather than on maintaining and building the skills to apply physical techniques to real conflicts.
Individually, we may reach our own value judgments regarding this change, but as none of us are named Ueshiba, we have little ability to alter this course of action beyond our own spheres of influence. We should understand, though, that those instructors who are not emphasizing the structure of shu-ha-ri as applied to form might still be employing it in other ways that are equally valid. We should also consider that such interpretations may reflect a truer characterization of what aikido as a whole is today (though perhaps not what it was during the lifetime of the founder of the art) than the interpretations of those of us who are practicing it primarily as an effective martial art. Again, while some of us may personally dislike this reality, in my experience most of the people in the art are quite happy with it (or at least they think they are).
07-03-2004, 03:32 PM
Thanks for replying.
I have to say that I agree with most of what you say. In fact, I am not sure exactly where I diverge from what you are writing. I can say my experience lends itself to the position that most Aikido today is not geared toward actual combative skills, etc.; that such a turn of events is supported by the masses, and by the cultures of the masses; that we are talking here about principles and not forms in some sort of reified shape; that there are many legitimate ways of employing shu-ha-ri model to one’s training, etc. I think you are also saying these things. Please correct me if I am mistaken.
The only point of disagreement that might exist I think is on our experience with Japanese shihan – noted by the quote you provided from my last post. While we may just have different experiences with these people, perhaps it is as you are implying – that we are just looking at these exposures in different ways – your way perhaps being the more valid. Allow me then to explain what I am seeing and what I think I should be seeing under such circumstances – why I do not count it as Ri and why I do not think we are exposed to such training by such men (for the most part).
Please also understand that this is how I personally employ the Shu-Ha-Ri model in our training. It was after all my first post that suggested that there are many ways of employing and/or understanding such a model. Therefore, I would like to take advantage of my own position and have you not feel that I am universalizing what it is that we are doing at our on training hall at the cost of all other types of applications. Thanks in advance.
Shu-Ha-Ri is a process. Its elements are co-dependent with themselves. It is a process through which, by which, and with which, a practitioner of a given art is “transported” from a state of being that carries already within it both an attachment to form and a type of spontaneity to another type of relationship to form and to another type of spontaneity. That is to say, prior to training we are all already attached to certain types of responses and reactions – just as we are already attached to the means by which we have developed those responses and reactions. These responses and reactions (which must include over-reactions) are more habitual than not and they are derived from our personal histories. In a way, they are learned.
More often than not, which is why these responses are often so contradictory to Budo, these reactions are fueled by our inability to reconcile the presence of Fear, Pride, and Ignorance in our lives. By the time we are adults, we have “practiced” these reactions to such a degree, and thus lived out non-reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and Ignorance to a similar degree, that we are in many cases quite spontaneous with these reactions. That is to say, there will be times, when stressors have reached high enough a level (for example), when we will react in a usual way but will do so without realizing it. “It just came out of the blue!” (but was 100% in agreement with everything else we have ever done under more calculated circumstances).
In a way then, we already have the mechanisms for Shu-Ha-Ri within ourselves. This would make sense. That is to say, we as human beings have the capacity to find spontaneity within a given set of responses, reactions, and/or within the underlying context of those responses and reactions. This all has to be there at some natural level – outside of contrived educations – for Shu-Ha-Ri to work and to function. Buddhism does hold that such a process is a natural function of exhistance. However, I would never say that this shaping of a pre-training habitual way of being (that we do indeed become spontaneous with, and that are based upon a lack of reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and Ignorance) is Shu-Ha-Ri. They are different – even though related.
As I said above, Shu-Ha-Ri is a process by which these other types of habitual ways being are “displaced” with another type of being – one supported by the tenets, principles, and philosophies of the art in question. Shu-ha-ri is then best understood as a process of displacement AND replacement – a displacement of types of spontaneity that are based upon an attachment to form for the purposes of replacing it with another type of spontaneity that is based upon a non-attachment to form (which is different from a negation of form).
In this way, Shu is initially an introduction of other/new principles, concepts, reactions, responses, etc., to given situations. We train in or experience these new things via forms, etiquette, dojo culture, sensei/deshi relationships, senpai/kohai relationships, etc. Shu training must involve as many elements as needed to expose and/or to bring to the surface our actual habitual reactions (e.g. to push back against someone that is pushing at us). It does this primarily via contrast. Shu training must also commence bringing to the surface the possible non-reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and Ignorance that has fully been supporting such reactions up until training has commenced.
In this way, through training in the dojo, one’s habitual way of being are being put next to alternate ways of being – ways of being that the art feels is in accordance with itself. Thus, Shu is a positing of sorts. Shu is an adding of sorts. Shu is a construction of sorts. Shu is very non-invasive. The teacher shows and you do. As such, Shu takes full advantage of the human being’s natural capacity to adopt new habits. If training is left to itself, left to start and stop here, which is the place where most of us are forced to leave our training, it is not the case that one is stuck in a land of form and thus left with little or no capacity for spontaneous expression. This would obviously fly in the face of the first spontaneity I mentioned at the beginning of this response – the one based in a habitual way of being that is supported by a lack of reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and Ignorance in one’s life.
If you place an aikidoka with this level of training, which is the level for most of us, in a spontaneous situation, what will you see? What type of spontaneity will come forth? One will most often see a type of spontaneity that is inconsistent in its expression. It will fluctuate between apparent adaptation and inaccurate prediction. It will tend to rely upon and be restricted to patterns of action and thought. It will show stylistic preferences and it will demonstrate a tendency toward either a single rhythm or a total lack of rhythm. Depending upon the number of years which said practitioner has been undertaking Shu level training, one’s spontaneous expression will be peppered to a relative degree with reactions and responses that are clearly from the habitual way of being that they first walked in the dojo with. Etc.
Physically, these things are often exhibited by forcing techniques to fit where they should not go; by holding one’s breath; by deviating when one should have entered; by entering when one should have deviated; by panic expressions on the face; by choppy movements; by being too late; by being too early; by hesitating, by premature exhaustion; etc. This all occurs because one’s training is still bogged down by form, by habit, and thus by the mechanisms through which we become attached to habit and form. We can say, the heart/mind, is “fettered” by a sea of choices – all of which are functioning within us at different levels of consciousness and of body-consciousness.
Flooded by a sea of choices, it is as if we become “stuck” in a swamp of mud. However, sometimes it will look like we are “getting it.” If we only train at Shu level, and if we appear not to be “stuck,” it only appears that way under spontaneous training conditions. Rather, what we are seeing, and what is clearly visible to a person that has “fulfilled” the process of Shu-Ha-Ri, is merely a product of chance. Chance will occasionally dictate, even within spontaneous training conditions, that a coincidence should occur between action and response. This is due to things like stylistic preferences being supported by an attacker and/or by predictions stumbling upon accuracy. Outside of these rare events, which are made all the rarer by sophisticated attackers, one simply sees a type of spontaneity that is plagued by an abiding mind – a heart/mind that is “stuck” and only understands “form as form.” Takuan in “The Unfettered Mind” writes on this topic. Please allow me to quote him here for the sake of others perhaps not as familiar with his thought:
“The term ‘ignorance’ means the absence of enlightenment. Which is to say ‘delusion.’ ‘Abiding place’ means the place where the mind stops. In the practice of Buddhism, there are said to be fifty-two stages, and within these fifty-two, the place where the mind stops at one thing is called the ‘abiding place.’ Abiding signifies stopping, and ‘stopping’ means the mind is being detained by some matter, which may be any matter at all. To speak in terms of your martial art, when you first notice the sword that is moving to strike you, if you think of meeting that sword just as it is, your mind will stop at the sword in just that position, your own movements will be undone, and you will be cut down by your opponent. This is what ‘stopping’ means…Whether by the strike of the enemy or your own thrust, whether by the man who strikes or the sword that strikes, whether by position or rhythm, if your mind is diverted in any way, your actions will falter, and this can mean that you will be cut down. If you place yourself before you opponent, your mind will be taken by him. You should not place your mind within yourself. Bracing the mind in the body is something done only at the inception of training, when one is a beginner. The mind can be taken by the sword. If you put your mind in the rhythm of the contest, your mind can be taken by that as well. If you place your mind in your own sword, your mind can be taken by your own sword. Your mind stopping at any of these places, you become an empty shell. You surely recall such situations yourself. They can be said to apply to Buddhism. In Buddhism, we call this stopping of the mind ‘delusion.’ Thus we say, ‘The affliction of abiding in ignorance.’” (pp. 19-20, Wilson)
On this point, the Heart Sutra implies that such “stopping” is a product of only realizing that “form is form.” Plagued by a sea of options, and also by an attachment to the mechanisms that support that perspective, one has not yet reconciled the truth that “form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.” Hence, “the affliction of abiding in ignorance.” Ha is that co-dependent aspect of the overall Shu-Ha-Ri process that commences the displacement/replacement that is at the core of ceasing the affliction of abiding.
Ha is a negating of sorts. Ha is a reduction of sorts. Ha is a deconstruction of sorts. Ha is very invasive. The student does, the teacher penetrates to the doer through the doing. While Shu takes full advantage of the human being’s capacity to adopt new habits, Ha training addresses our attachment to that process. If we want to speak of Ha in positive terms, we can say, Ha training involves the cultivation of non-attachment. This is why we can say that Ha training is not necessarily about one more variation on a form, one more technique, one more principle or concept, etc. Ha training is about reconciling our attachment to such things. Thus, Ha training is often about uncovering the ways in which we have taken our Shu training and fed it into our habitual way of not reconciling Fear, Pride, and Ignorance in our lives. Toward this end, Ha training must of course also make full use of the things Shu training does (mentioned above). However, it should also make use of the following: zazen or some other type of praxis involving moments of silence and isolated “confrontations” of self (e.g. purification, prayer, etc.); training with high levels of intensity; training regularly (according to one’s experience with Shu) under spontaneous conditions; and the guidance of a teacher capable of noting and reflecting the subtle forms of attachment that experts of Shu can unknowingly demonstrate, a teacher capable of ensuring that a spontaneity that is in accordance with the art in question is being produced and not another.
As our attachments, our level of attachment, and our manner of attachment are all extremely individual, Ha training is very personal. This individualistic nature is compounded by the fact that each teacher will also have his/her way of “guiding” the student into a state of reconciliation with such things. The seminar circuit, for the most part, cannot support such personal training. In fact, in many ways, it is antithetical to such training. For this reason, and for many others (e.g. the rarity of such teaching and such teachers), I can say that my experience with such teachers, on the contrary, supports the view that instruction mostly consists of Shu level training. However, it must be said, it is hard to actually consider it Shu level training because Shu-Ha-Ri is an interdependent process of displacement and replacement. If I do not have Ha, it is very hard to have Shu. In that sense, it is not too far of a stretch to say that our exposure to such teachers mainly consists of purely architectural matters – of forms (which of course involves principles and concepts, theories, tactics, strategies, etc.). Obviously, this is important. Moreover, obviously most of us are quite satisfied by such training. However, we do not have to proclaim it as or understand it as Shu-Ha-Ri training in order to offer it the status of being important and/or satisfying. Leave it for what it is – studies in architecture; a kind of physical expression of architectural appreciation.
As such, it is my experience that the “moments of Ri” that we see under such conditions are more akin to the “coincidence” I described above when folks of Shu training alone are put in a spontaneous training condition and just happen to have things “match.” The “matching” is obviously more sophisticated at seminars and demonstrations, but that is mostly due to the fact that said training conditions are themselves constructed in more sophisticated (and subtle) ways. If one does happen to witness a case of true Ri, we sitting there watching it, we training there without the personal process of Ha being applied to our being, are basically in the same place as if we have never seen it. We gain nothing by watching it – as I am sure you would agree. In other words, the rarity of seeing it is only surpassed by the rarity of actually being able to invest within it at such events and under such men.
The hard-point here for me is Ha, not Shu. If Ha is understood differently from what I have described above, and if that different understanding of Ha lends itself to what one does and sees at seminars and demonstrations, I can very well imagine that such events can indeed be thought of as lending themselves to such a process as Shu-Ha-Ri. An example of this could be understanding Ha as variations on a given Kihon Waza. Many folks in this thread have either said this outright or have implied it. Under such an understanding, I could withdraw or amend my comment you quoted. That, however, is not my understanding of Ha, as this reply has stated, and so I am afraid I have to stick to my comment while I can fully appreciate yours.
07-11-2004, 06:41 PM
I think the principle difference in our positions in this thread is not that I have experienced this process as a student of a Japanese shihan, which I have, but that I have often seen this process used as you describe it to achieve results that have little do with technique. I have seen it used to change behaviors and reactions that, while $B!H(Bspontaneous$B!I(B in a certain sense, reflect an attachment to a way of perceiving the world and one$B!G(Bs place in it that is not consistent with the principles of aikido. But these behaviors and reactions are not necessarily replaced with the ability to effectively apply the physical techniques of aikido.
This is why I have said that aikido is not principally an art of techniques. Of course, all arts, even extremely formal koryu, are arts of principle rather than technique, so the way I framed that point is somewhat confusing. My intent was to say that in aikido, techniques play a very different role than in other arts. I think we can agree, along with several others, that mainstream aikido, unlike most other arts, does not intend to teach the effective application of physical aikido techniques to real conflicts. It does, however teach something, and I believe that it does so through the process of shu-ha-ri, as you described it.
What that $B!H(Bsomething$B!I(B that mainstream aikido teaches is rather hard to pin down. Yet if you attend seminars, visit dojos, or even read discussion boards such as this one on the Internet, you will see examples of it. It is an approach to conflict that assumes that things will never reach the point of a real physical attack. Personally, I think that is an unwise stance, particularly in the dojo where we have signed away our rights to legal recourse in the case of injury, but perhaps it is more suited to our modern world where physical violence is no longer a real concern for most adults.
Interestingly, we can also look at the debate over whether aikido should be taught to the poor that was taking place on another board in a similar light. The poor are proportionally more likely to face actual violence in their daily lives than the rich, who make up the bulk of the aikido community. Yet, many feel that the art is not for them. Perhaps the underlying reason for this is that the poor need something with more physically effective techniques than mainstream aikido offers. Since we both have an interest in such techniques, it should not be surprising then that we both are more open to teaching such students, reducing fees if necessary. Aikido has great potential to change the way people relate to each other and themselves, but that potential will never be fully achieved until we get it into the hands of those who need it most.
07-11-2004, 08:54 PM
I think that it is important to note that Okumura Shihan has said that while the concept has been useful for him to explain things to his students, he also has said that the Founder did not use the concept and has indicated O`Sensei did not find it appropriate for Aikido. So my question then is, is shu ha ri a natural progression or just one way of doing things?
From most descriptions given by various great aikido teachers about O Sensei's teaching method, it was apparent that O Sensei did not use the concept himself. Luckily for us, most of his students (Tohei, Shioda, Yamaguchi, Mochizuki, etc.) did and they left behind their systems whereby the art can be transmitted to future generations. Aikido is not a biological progression like a baby learning to crawl, learning to stand and finally learningto walk. We as humans even have to learn to swim again - an act that was innate in us.
Shu ha ri, IMO, is not a natural progression, it is spiritual path (Do) of learning and one must have the passion and sincerity to pursue and complete the path/course (which is endless). The loops between the Ha stage and the Ri stage is never ending once one has reached these levels. Ha is about knowing and understanding the underlying principles and Ri is about applications (Oyo). Once one has understood the principles, then the techniques (oyo) are almost infinite depending on what ones body can do.
Just my two sen.
07-11-2004, 09:56 PM
Thank you for replying.
I think I need more clarification to reply properly. I do not think I understand you correctly.
“I have seen it used to change behaviors and reactions that, while “spontaneous” in a certain sense, reflect an attachment to a way of perceiving the world and one’s place in it that is not consistent with the principles of aikido. But these behaviors and reactions are not necessarily replaced with the ability to effectively apply the physical techniques of aikido. “
- If I can fill in your pronouns – are you saying that you have seen the shu-ha-ri model used at seminars and other types of instructions to modify people’s behavior into something that is antithetical to Aikido principles/ethics? If so, can you give me an example of what this might exactly look like? What kind of class was that? What kind of training are we talking about? How exactly was the shu-ha-ri model being utilized in such training? What behavior was being produced and how is it antithetical to Aikido principles? Etc.?
“Of course, all arts, even extremely formal koryu, are arts of principle rather than technique, so the way I framed that point is somewhat confusing. My intent was to say that in aikido, techniques play a very different role than in other arts. I think we can agree, along with several others, that mainstream aikido, unlike most other arts, does not intend to teach the effective application of physical aikido techniques to real conflicts. It does, however teach something, and I believe that it does so through the process of shu-ha-ri, as you described it. “
- Are you saying, while conceding that all arts are about something more/different than waza, Aikido’s difference from these arts is that it is not (even) about the spontaneous application of tactical principles and/or concepts, etc. (e.g. martial applications)?
- Are you saying that Aikido, unlike other arts, uses the shu-ha-ri model of personal transformation to establish a particular type of being that has little to no concern with martial matters and/or questions? Are you willing to make and hold the assumption that shu-ha-ri can remain spiritually potent outside of martial issues within Aikido praxis? I ask this latter point because you used the phrase “as you (me) described it,” and I do not think that the way I described the model would allow for such an assumption. In other words, there are very concise motors for self-transformation that must be present for shu-ha-ri to occur – one of them being the martial element.
“What that “something” that mainstream aikido teaches is rather hard to pin down. Yet if you attend seminars, visit dojos, or even read discussion boards such as this one on the Internet, you will see examples of it. It is an approach to conflict that assumes that things will never reach the point of a real physical attack.”
- Do we recognize this “it” by its difficulty to pin down alone? Are you saying that there is some consensus in the Aikido world concerning the nature of this “it?” Are you suggesting that consensus in someway adds to or determines the validity of this “it?” Does this “it” fit into the grand scheme of things in this way: (summarizing in reverse) “We can see that mainstream Aikido training does indeed produce changes in Being – an “it”. We can see therefore that there must be a mechanism of change – one that produces this change in Being and which thereby makes up this consensus. We can call this mechanism “shu-ha-ri.” For various reasons (which you did not mention), this shu-ha-ri is used to produce a type of behavior that is antithetical to Aikido principles in most cases.”
As you can imagine I am very much at odds with such a summary, so I would very much like to know if it is accurate or not concerning your position. All of my issues are centered on the reasoning of attaching what you are describing to the traditional model of shu-ha-ri. While I can note some of the things you note, I cannot note that to be shu-ha-ri or its proper application. Assuming for the moment that I might be summarizing your position correctly, I think there are several things that are difficult to accept. Here’s why: 1) Ri is marked by rarity and not commonality – it has always been this way and I imagine it will always be this way; 2) I do not think that the “it” at the base of Aikido’s consensus represents any kind of real change in the lives of most people. I think ego attachment is what folks had coming in, and I think that is what most continue to work with throughout their training. By tradition, it is this ego attachment that is in itself (and as the source of all behavior that is) antithetical to Aikido principles – not Ri; 3) Ri is not marked by a spontaneity that is a result of an attachment to form. It is marked by a spontaneity that is a result of a non-attachment to form; 4) Though I have said in point number two that no real change actually takes place in most cases, allowing for such a possibility for the moment, it is quite a jump in logic to associate this “change in behavior” with shu-ha-ri since Ri is defined by two major elements. Ri is marked by a non-attachment to form (as was said in point number three), and Ri is marked by a quality of consistency with a given art’s principles. In other words, Ri is not synonymous with habit and/or spontaneity in and of itself, and this is true no matter how many other similarities may be present between all three types of body/mind.
- On your last statement, “It is an approach to conflict that assumes that things will never reach the point of a real physical attack.” Are you suggesting that folks actually hold this position or are you stating that this is your interpretation of what you see them doing? I am asking because shu-ha-ri as a traditional model for transformation requires a great deal of conscious effort and insight on the part of the teacher – as I mentioned earlier in this thread. Therefore, if this is your interpretation of what most folks are unknowingly doing, I do not see how we are looking at an application of the shu-ha-ri model. True, there may be a shared behavior, and to some degree that behavior is either cultivated and/or reinforced by training, and to some degree folks are of course “spontaneous” with that behavior, but this is not shu, ha, or ri, nor an application of shu-ha-ri. We are just looking at precisely what I said we are looking at: shared behavior that is grounded in one’s personal history (training in Aikido being a part of that personal history) and by which has become habitual.
Or, if you are trying to identify something that folks are consciously accepting and/or deciding upon (e.g. “We are altering are behavior and our perceptions of the world and ourselves through our training in such a way that we “defend” ourselves by utilizing this behavior and perception to not place us in violent encounters in the first place.”), I do not think that many folks would openly hold this position. In other words, while there is some logic to it, since it is the classic “violence begets violence” position being used proactively, I would hold that most of the folks that would make up your consensus of “it” do not hold up this “violence begets violence” position, and thus (most importantly) neither do they hold up the position that there waza is useless, martially speaking.
Without a doubt, mainstream Aikido is indeed heading down the way of having techniques that have no martial purpose whatsoever. And, again without a doubt, in some complicated way, this is being combined with and supported by Budo’s classic position that waza are not the end-all of training. However, regardless, we are nowhere near that point where most aikidoka believe that their waza is totally useless (for good reason) in a martial situation. For this reason, and again assuming I am understanding you correctly, I find it very hard to accept that we are dealing here with the shu-ha-ri model as you are proposing. There is no consensus and/or current majority of aikidoka that firmly believes and/or expects their waza to be martially useless and/or 100% tactically invalid. Aikido’s martial degeneration is happening not because of conscious decision-making to be such. Rather it is occurring because of lack of mature reflection regarding Aikido’s own truths, discourses, institutions, and practices. This is how most are able to hold that they are indeed being martial, or on their way to being martial, as they firmly embrace all of Aikido’s truths, discourse, institutions, and practices without question, and thus thereby nevertheless continue more and more to make Aikido an irrelevant element in the world of martial arts training.
So, please, before I can respond more succinctly, can you further explain your position by answering the questions posed above – many thanks.
07-12-2004, 02:04 AM
"I have seen it used to change behaviors and reactions that, while "spontaneous" in a certain sense, reflect an attachment to a way of perceiving the world and one's place in it that is not consistent with the principles of aikido. But these behaviors and reactions are not necessarily replaced with the ability to effectively apply the physical techniques of aikido."
- If I can fill in your pronouns -- are you saying that you have seen the shu-ha-ri model used at seminars and other types of instructions to modify people's behavior into something that is antithetical to Aikido principles/ethics?
No. The behaviors, before they are changed, $B!H(Breflect an attachment to a way of perceiving the world and one's place in it that is not consistent with the principles of aikido,$B!I(B yet they are still spontaneous in certain sense. This is in accordance with how you defined the spontaneity of the pre-shu-ha-ri state in your post: $B!H(BBy the time we are adults, we have $B!F(Bpracticed$B!G(B these reactions to such a degree, and thus lived out non-reconciliation with Fear, Pride, and Ignorance to a similar degree, that we are in many cases quite spontaneous with these reactions.$B!I(B
Although they are often replaced through the shu-ha-ri process with something other than the ability to apply the physical techniques of aikido effectively, it is not something that is antithetical to the principles and ethics of aikido.
"Of course, all arts, even extremely formal koryu, are arts of principle rather than technique, so the way I framed that point is somewhat confusing. My intent was to say that in aikido, techniques play a very different role than in other arts. I think we can agree, along with several others, that mainstream aikido, unlike most other arts, does not intend to teach the effective application of physical aikido techniques to real conflicts. It does, however teach something, and I believe that it does so through the process of shu-ha-ri, as you described it."
- Are you saying, while conceding that all arts are about something more/different than waza, Aikido's difference from these arts is that it is not (even) about the spontaneous application of tactical principles and/or concepts, etc. (e.g. martial applications)?
Yes, although I was referring specifically to their application through the physical techniques of the art.
Are you saying that Aikido, unlike other arts, uses the shu-ha-ri model of personal transformation to establish a particular type of being that has little to no concern with martial matters and/or questions? Are you willing to make and hold the assumption that shu-ha-ri can remain spiritually potent outside of martial issues within Aikido praxis?
No. Although these forms of shu-ha-ri do not usually result in the ability to apply the physical techniques of aikido to real conflicts, they are not completely divorced from martial principles. They may include such things as attacking methods, kamae, falling skills, general principles of body movement, etc. All of these are important from a martial standpoint, but they are different from the ability to spontaneously apply the physical techniques of art in real situations.
"What that "something" that mainstream aikido teaches is rather hard to pin down. Yet if you attend seminars, visit dojos, or even read discussion boards such as this one on the Internet, you will see examples of it. It is an approach to conflict that assumes that things will never reach the point of a real physical attack."
- Do we recognize this "it" by its difficulty to pin down alone? Are you saying that there is some consensus in the Aikido world concerning the nature of this "it?" Are you suggesting that consensus in someway adds to or determines the validity of this "it?"
Yes. You can see evidence of this consensus any time you go to a seminar and attack in a realistic manner and receive complaints or objections, a scenario you described in another post. This happens because people are not taught to consider or expect real physical attacks.
Does this "it" fit into the grand scheme of things in this way: (summarizing in reverse) "We can see that mainstream Aikido training does indeed produce changes in Being -- an "it". We can see therefore that there must be a mechanism of change -- one that produces this change in Being and which thereby makes up this consensus. We can call this mechanism "shu-ha-ri." For various reasons (which you did not mention), this shu-ha-ri is used to produce a type of behavior that is antithetical to Aikido principles in most cases."
No, this summary is based on a misinterpretation of my initial statement. I was not saying that the resulting behavior from this process is antithetical to aikido principles, but rather the initial behavior.
On your last statement, "It is an approach to conflict that assumes that things will never reach the point of a real physical attack." Are you suggesting that folks actually hold this position or are you stating that this is your interpretation of what you see them doing?
Some are aware that they hold this position but many are not.
Or, if you are trying to identify something that folks are consciously accepting and/or deciding upon (e.g. "We are altering are behavior and our perceptions of the world and ourselves through our training in such a way that we "defend" ourselves by utilizing this behavior and perception to not place us in violent encounters in the first place."), I do not think that many folks would openly hold this position.
I actually find that to be a quite common sentiment in aikido. If you search around this forum I$B!G(Bm sure that you will find several examples of it.
In other words, while there is some logic to it, since it is the classic "violence begets violence" position being used proactively, I would hold that most of the folks that would make up your consensus of "it" do not hold up this "violence begets violence" position,
Again, my experience has been that quite a lot, perhaps even most, do.
However, regardless, we are nowhere near that point where most aikidoka believe that their waza is totally useless (for good reason) in a martial situation. $B!D(B There is no consensus and/or current majority of aikidoka that firmly believes and/or expects their waza to be martially useless and/or 100% tactically invalid.
I never suggested that aikido$B!G(Bs physical techniques are totally useless or 100% tactically invalid. What I said was that the shu-ha-ri process in aikido is only very rarely used to develop the skills to effectively apply them. Far more often it is used for other purposes. Because of this, the overall tactical validity of the physical techniques of the art is relatively low compared with other grappling arts. This is not a unique position but one shared by many, perhaps most, people with experience in such arts.
Aikido's martial degeneration is happening not because of conscious decision-making to be such. Rather it is occurring because of lack of mature reflection regarding Aikido's own truths, discourses, institutions, and practices.
While there certainly could be more honest reflection upon such things, I would also say that important structural changes have been introduced into the art in order to make it less martial. This is a similar process to what has happened to sport arts such as judo and kendo, and though different in form, it is no less intentional.
07-12-2004, 02:32 AM
Thank you for replying. I think I can begin to see better where you are coming from now. However, I think I need one more set of questions answered before I can address your points adequately.
- What are these other, more common, purposes to which shu-ha-ri is aimed at in mainstream Aikido? Once have given an example of such a purpose, can you give me a breakdown of how this model works toward that end, and also how such a breakdown does indeed take place quite often at seminars, etc.
I ask this last question because I have a sense that we are ultimately defining these three terms differently - as well understanding their place in history differently. Perhaps we can find a more common language in the end.
Thanks in advance for answering this last set of questions. Your position is most interesting.
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